16th July, 1546: The Horrific Death of Anne Askew

16th July marks the anniversary of the death of Anne Askew, the last martyr to be executed under the reign of Henry VIII, one of the first English women to ask for a divorce and the only woman on record to have been tortured in the Tower of London… Oh, and one of history’s biggest bad asses.

(c) National Trust, Tatton Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Anne Askew: Gave zero fucks about patriarchy, religion or pain.

Anne was born into a noble family, in Lincolnshire in 1520. Her Dad, William Askew, was a prominent courtier and landowner and pals with Henry VIII, whilst her two brothers were the Sherriff of Lincoln, and Henry’s cup bearer (which sounds like a shit job but was actually considered an honour, mostly because the Tudor courtier were the biggest bunch of brown-nosers in history, and fought to get close to the King, so much so that wiping the Kings fat, shitty arse was considered one of the highest positions a man could hold. Can you imagine telling your friends that is your job nowadays??

Anne was very well read and witty, and a devout protestant. The shit all started when Anne was fifteen and her sister, Martha, died.  So as to ‘save money’, Anne’s father arranged for Anne to marry the man her sister had been betrothed to, a local landowner, a vile scumbag called Thomas Kyme. Kyme was a strict catholic and didn’t approve of Anne’s protestant faith. He obviously though he could change her ways, but soon came to realise that he had bitten off more than he could chew when Anne refused to take his name and refused to refer to him as her husband.

In my opinion, Anne was the ultimate Tudor feminist, giving not one toss about society’s expectations of women of that time. Anne’s marriage was unhappy and abusive, and despite having two children with Kyme, Anne used the introduction of the reformation as a way to seek a divorce from her cock-wiff husband. Kyme grew tired of Anne’s belligerence and, under the advice of the local priest, and much to Anne’s pleasure, he kicked her out. Anne, being the indomitable rebel that she was, saw this as an opportunity to head down to London and spread the word according to the protestant bible.

Because he was a massive scrotum-faced fuckwit, in 1543 Henry VIII ruled that it would be illegal for all women and men of minor gentry and lower to read the bible. This was a bit to take back some control and hopefully forge some sort of relationship with the Holy Roman Empire. It was therefore seen as heresy to be somebody who would stand in towns reciting the bible for the ordinary folks who may not ordinarily have access to such texts, or a gospeller as they were named. For Anne there was no other way. She had been attending bible meetings in London, where groups would get together in secret to study the protestant text, and this was the next step for her. The people of London wanted to hear it and she felt duty bound to deliver it.

Anne was an amazing gospeller. The people flocked to hear her recite the protestant texts, and were enamoured that a noble woman of such high ranking would come to the streets to give the poor, uneducated and bible-less povvers faith and inspiration; plus she was easy on the eye, which I’m sure helped. She soon earned the name the ‘Fair Gospeler’ and became somewhat of a Tudor celebrity. Anne knew she was breaking the law but gave zero fucks about all that noise.

At one point she was arrested and her divorce request rejected, she was sent back Lincolnshire and imprisoned but escaped and returned to London to continue her good work. This is when the shit really hit the fan.

One of Henry VIII’s most trusted politicians, the militant Catholic Bishop of Winchester, was a snidey little gobshite called Stephen Gardiner. Gardiner didn’t take kindly to Anne Askew educating the poor with the protestant text and went out of his way to put an end to it by putting an end to her. At this point in time, Henry VIII was onto his last wife Katherine Parr, a beautiful, well-educated and very tolerant woman who also happened to be a devout protestant and a bit of a free thinker. Gardiner didn’t like the queen and so decided that there may be a way to kill two birds with one stone.

 

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Stephen Gardiner and his massive bollock of a face.

 

Anne was good pals with a high ranking noble woman called Catherine Brandon, the Duchess of Suffolk. Catherine Brandon was also the queens BFF so Gardiner, seeing a connection decided that was his way in. He had Anne arrested and sent to the Tower, then he had the Queen and her ladies arrested under suspicion of heresy. Katherine Parr, being the brain box that she was, had the foresight to burn all of her protestant literature prior to the arrest when she got a wiff of Gardiners plans.

Whilst Anne was imprisoned in the Tower of London she was asked to name all of the women that she knew who heretics were. Anne said nothing. Ordinarily what would happen next would be that the prisoner would be shown a man undergoing torture on the rack, with the threat of ‘this will be you if you don’t comply’, but because Anne was a woman, and one of high birth at that, it was deemed inappropriate for her to see a naked man, so instead, and with rather questionable moral benchmarks, Gardiner decided that the middle man should just be cut out and Anne would go straight to the rack in an attempt to get her to name her conspirators.

Anne was eventually condemned to be executed by burning, but Gardiner still needed Anne to implicate the Queen. Now, as I hope you are now seeing, Anne was nobody’s mug, and being the heroine that she was decided to write accounts of her time in the tower. According these these accounts Anne was stripped down to her shift, tied to the rack and stretched until she was taught and raised five inches from the table. She passed out from the pain, but was revived and the whole process was repeated twice more. The Tower constable, a man named Anthony Kingston, could not bear to see the torture and ran to the King to demand it be stopped.

The problem was that the two men who ordered the torture were Gardiner’s right hand men. These two utter fucking wankstains were named Tom Wriothesley and Richard Rich (which in hindsight is probably why they were angry men). Rich and Wriothesley ignored the gaolers request to end the torture of Anne and instead took hold of the reigns and decided that if the torturer wouldn’t do it, that they would simply do it themselves. The violence only ended when Anthony Kingston returned from Henry with a royal demand to get Anne off the rack and leave her the fuck alone until her execution. As I have already said, Anne was the only woman ever recorded to have been tortured in the Tower, and still she didn’t name one other person as an accomplice. What an absolutely amazing lady she was. The Queen and her ladies were released due to a lack of evidence, and also because of Anne’s silence.

On 16th July, 1546 Anne was put to death by being burnt at the stake, the standard, yet friggin horrific death reserved for heretics and martyrs. The problem was the Anne had been tortured so much that she couldn’t stand. She had been stretched on the rack until her tendons had snapped, her wrists, ankles, elbows, hips and knees had all dislocated and her muscle fibres stretched to beyond repair. These vile bastards had really gone to town on her to the point where Anne had to be carried to the stake on a chair. She was then tied with chains to a separate chair which was attached to the woodpile, which was then set alight. As if this wasn’t enough, the fire was set to burn slowly, ensuring that Anne endured as much pain in her last moments as the men could cause.

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The martyrdom of Anne Askew

It is thought that somebody who took pity on Anne, covered her in gunpowder to ensure a swift end, other accounts suggest that the fire burnt for over an hour and people flocked to see the burning of the Fair Gospeler. One thing is consistent though, and that is that Anne maintained her dignity and courage until the very end.

At the time of Anne’s execution, a motherfucker of a thunderstorm rolled into London. It was believed that this was a display of Gods wrath at the murder of innocents. I like to think of Gardiner, Rich and Wriothesley sat there shitting themselves, cry-wanking into a pulpit begging for forgiveness at the sound of weather, but I doubt they did.

It is unknown whether Anne and the Queen were in the secret protestant club that Gardiner had invented, or if they even ever met at all. One thing is for certain though, Anne Askew’s story is one of the saddest yet most empowering in Tudor history, so much so that in Victorian times interest in her peaked and a special ‘Anne Askew doll’ was created, (which came complete with a rack and stake… real talk). Apparently one can still be seen today in Leeds toy museum… though quite why you would want to make a special trip to see a vintage murder doll is beyond me.

Anne was the last martyr to die under the reign of Henry VIII. She was only 25 when she died.

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How did people hide and share their religion in the Tudor times?

a typical priest hole: its not what your thinking

This was a question I was asked to do a video for. To be honest I found it really hard to answer; there is just so much to explain. Anyway, apologies for the rambling chat and gormless expressions, but hope you enjoy it regardless. Because I’m good to you too, below is a link to a blog about the Harvington Hall Priest holes, a good read if you’re interested.
How Tudors Hid their religion

Priest holes of Harvington Hall

The Revolution House, Derbyshire

Thomas Cranmer: Lover, bishop, martyr, badass.

2nd July 1489 – Thomas Cranmer is born

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Ive always thought of Thomas Cranmer as a bit of an obscure Tudor, in that he did a lot to shape the country during Henry VIII’s reign and yet never seems to take much of a centre stage despite his importance. He was born in 1489 under the reign of Henry’s dad, Henry VII (they liked the name Henry back then), and rose to fame as the archbishop of Canterbury before being executed by Henry’s daughter Mary at the ripe old age of 67 for the crime of heresy, (I always think it hardly seemed worth executing anybody above 50 in Tudor times as being left to the ravages of old age was probably a far shittier punishment).

Thomas was born to parents of minor gentry and sent off to University in Cambridge to become a priest. However before qualifying, he fell in love and married his first wife Joan so the University kicked him out, (the Catholics didn’t like married priests, but priests were allowed to take a mistress….I don’t get it either).  Anyway within the year Joan died during childbirth and the University, being the understanding bunch that they were, reinstated Cranmers fellowship allowing him to qualify as a priest and eventually a ‘Doctor of Divinity’, which has to be up there amongst the best titles ever. Eventually Cardinal Woolsey (the Popes right hand man in England), came sniffing about for bright young Cambridge scholars to work in Spain as ambassadors to the Pope and Cranmers name cropped up, so off he went.

Meanwhile, Back in England in the 1520’s, Henry VIII was growing fed up with his first wife Katherine. She had not only failed to produce an heir (how selfish), but she had also produced a long list of miscarriages and still born babies. The king was now shitting himself that he would have no heir so turned his attentions to the idea of a new wife to chuck out some boys. In order to do this he needed an annulment (to get around the problem of divorce shitting on the face of the Pope). In order to get an annulment Henry needed a good lawyer,( just like every corrupt noble), and he figured it might be a good move to find somebody from the clergy willing to justify Henry’s actions  to the Pope. Henry chose Thomas Cromwell as his lawyer, and in 1527 he interviewed Thomas Cranmer and decided he was exactly the man he needed to get him out of his 24 year marriage. The men became good pals and decided between them that Henrys marriage contradicted a passage in the bible which stated that you must not marry your brother’s wife. They added evidence to this claim stating that the marriage was cursed and the failure to produce a male heir was proof (they neglected to mention henry’s syphilis). This did not stick in the slightest and they were told by the Pope that it was basically tough shit. He chose to marry Katherine and to abandon her would be an act of heresy and result in excommunication.

In 1532 Thomas found himself in Rome as the ambassador to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Katharine’s nephew. He was not happy about the annulment either. Anyway, whilst following Charles around Europe, Thomas met his second wife Margarete. He loved her so much that he decided to sack off celibacy (its shit anyway) and his vows to the church and marry her anyway. Shortly after this he got a letter from henry VIII ordering him to return to England to become the Arch Bishop of Canterbury. This was a bit of a fucker for Thomas so he decided that he would hide his wife in exile.

Back in England Henry was still trying desperately to get his annulment from his wife (it went on for 6 years). In 1532 he dropped a massive bollock by getting Anne Boleyn knocked up, (he had promised to marry her in order to bed her, so now the need for divorce was greater than ever). In January 1533 Henry secretly married Anne (and did not tell Cranmer till 2 weeks after, possibly so as not to piss him off whilst working on the annulment bullshit and also so he didn’t get into a hot mess for being a fat arsed bigamist). Anyway all was good when Cranmer came through for Henry in May of the same year, declaring his marriage void.

As you can imagine this did not fly with the pope, so henry went to Cranmer again for help. The two decided they would sack off Catholicism and invent a new religion where Henry could be boss and Cranmer could re-write Holy passages which basically allowed Henry to do what he wants and be thought of as equal to the Pope (in that he was the head of the church of England as the pope was the head of the Roman catholic church).

Cranmer remained faithful to Henry and a load of other less interesting stuff happened: Henry executed Anne after just 3 years of marriage, got remarried to a bird called Jane who gave him his heir and died in the process. He also married Anne of Cleeves and decided he didn’t like her so Cranmer helped the king ditch her only to go  forward to marry a girl of 19, (when he was 49 like a dirty old bastard), called Katherine Howard. Katherine was his ‘rose without thorns’…his words, and he was besotted with her, giving her wealth beyond her wildest dreams and bragging about all the sex they had been having (imagine the poor girl having that fat oink writing on you with his old body and stinking, ulcerated leg. Not exactly a turn on).

Being a girl of 19 in a court full of hot young lads, It didn’t take long for Katherine’s eyes to wander and they fell upon the youthful face of Thomas Culpepper (member of the Kings privy council). They began an affair and it also came out that she had shagged a couple of dudes before she had met the king and not quite been the virgin he had taken her to be. Nobody wanted to tell the king of his new wife infidelities so the job was handed to Cranmer. Cranmer, being the brave, fearless man he was, slipped a note informing the king of all Katherine’s shenanigans under his chair at mass. The king upon finding this note was most pissed off and decided to send wife number 5 to the block at the tender age of 19.

The execution of poor Katherine Howard

The execution of poor Katherine Howard

When Henry VIII died in 1547, Cranmer was all about Protestantism. He gave so few fucks about what the Catholics thought that he almost seeming only purpose went out of his way to piss them off. Under the Reign of the boy king Edward VI, who was also a big fan of Protestantism, (after all it had assisted his dad in binning off 2 wives prior to knobbing his Ma and spawning the sickly lad), Thomas Cranmer was allowed to run wild. He was given free reign to the changed he though necessary to the church in order to make it a bit less catholic and also write two books of prayer.

When Ed died Thomas supported his successor, the protestant ‘nine day queen’ Lady Jane Grey. The thought of Lady Jane inheriting the throne pissed loads of people off. Edwards sisters, (Princess’ Mary and Elizabeth), had both been declared bastards by Henry and moreover, if Mary (who’s turn it was next) inherited the throne she would try and make the country Catholic again…she was having none of Edward Protestant bullshit. Likewise, Edward wasn’t about to risk the Catholics coming back and the Pope laying some smackdown on his country or losing the gold looted from the monasteries some years earlier by his Dad, so he did the sensible thing and named their cousin Jane as the next sovereign.

Long story short, Mary went fucking mental, rallied an army, marched on London like a banshee, told Jane she would be spared if she converted to Catholicism, Jane told her to cock off so was totally executed. This meant Mary inherited the throne of England and Cranmer swiftly ran out of allies.

And so to poor Thomas’ end. Mary was a psycho bitch. She fucking HATED Protestants and loved nothing more than torturing, hanging and setting fire to them. Thomas Cranmer being the King of the Protty’s now found himself in deep shit. Mary had Cranmer arrested and put on trial for the crime of heresy, he was told that if he recanted all would be OK, so he did. He basically told the court that Protestantism was crap and Catholicism was amazing, but they did not believe him, (can’t think why), so Cranmer was sentenced to death.

Upon his death took back his recantation, stating that the Pope was the antichrist and that he had cleared his conscience before his death, basically stating that because he had nothing to loose he was going to let the world know his thoughts about the catholic reign. He was then tied to the woodpile with chains and set alight. Thomas then did something totally fucking awesome and shoved his first recantation (the one which said he now likes Catholics), into the fire first, held it there whilst the paper burnt (and his hand with it), and said ‘this unworthy right hand’, before being consumed by the flames.

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After surviving Henry VII, HenryVIII, Edward VI and Lady Jane Grey, Thomas was executed by the hand of Mary I at the ripe old age of 67.

Thomas Cranmer…religious badboy.

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